Throughout the existence of the confession dominated a “relatively uniform” view of biblical authority and interpretation based on the reformed scholastic of Presbyterian thought until the 1930s.  In response to the scientific revolution, the teaching of biblical infallibility, as found in the Creed, has turned into biblical inertia, the idea that the Bible is free of errors in science and history. This approach to biblical interpretation was accompanied by Scottish common sense, which dominated Princeton, Harvard and other American colleges in the 18th and 19th centuries. When applying to biblical interpretation encouraged theologians of common sense philosophy to assume that people thought the same way in all times and cultures. It was therefore believed that a modern interpreter could know the spirit of biblical writers, regardless of cultural and contextual differences. This form of biblical literalism was a standard teaching in Presbyterian colleges and seminaries.  The 204th General Assembly (1992) adopted these guidelines for their own lives and made them available as a tool for communities and other organs of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to use in times of conflict and disagreement. The guidelines offer clear and simple proposals to deal with the differences that turn them into opportunities for growth, leniency and understanding. While the application of these guidelines cannot prevent conflict, they will create an open, useful and constructive climate in which differences of love and understanding can be evoked.
Jesus teaches his successors in Matthew 18:15-17 how to approach conflict. Talk to us directly in times of conflict. If that does not lead to a solution, we will talk about one or two others. And if this does not succeed, “tell the Church” (Matthew 18:17). As Johannes Paul Lederach reminds us, Jesus offers “a look at the Church as a place where one can confront and work with conflict, not as a place without conflict” (The Journey Towards Reconciliation, p. 130). The denomination originated in the colonial period, when members of the Church of Scotland and priests from Ireland first immigrated to America. After the American Revolution, the PCUSA was organized in Philadelphia to take the national direction of presbyterians in the new nation. In 1861, the Presbyterians of the southern United States separated from the denomination because they were fighting over slavery, politics and theology triggered by the American Civil War. They founded the Presbyterian Church in the United States, often referred to as the “Southern Presbyterian Church.” Because of its regional identification, the PCUSA has been commonly referred to as the Northern Presbyterian Church. Despite the name of the PCUSA as “The Church of the North,” it was again a national denomination in its later years. There were times when I wanted the Christian Church to be able to hide its identity.
If we fail to be the Church or to face the occasion. When we do or say things that go against the gospel of Jesus Christ. If we stand idly by and let evil reign. If we ourselves are accomplices, or, worse, people who participate in the stories – old and new – of oppression, injustice and disbelief.